While employed by Activor Corporation in 2007, Mahavir Mehta fell 12 feet off a ladder and sustained serious injuries, including one to his left wrist that required surgery. Activor did not carry workers’ compensation insurance and was not permissibly self-insured.
Mehta initiated workers’ compensation proceedings and sued Activor and the principle stockholder Chanda Zaveri for damages pursuant to Labor Code section 3706. The suit (Metha I) resulted in a judgment in plaintiff’s favor against Activor only in the total sum of $184,850.22, which included $129,850.22 in attorney fees. Through a writ of execution, plaintiff collected $55,000 from Activor.
After entry of the Mehta I judgment, Activor began transferring assets and accounts receivable to Chanda Zaveri and to Actiogen Corporation and Chanda LLC, two newly formed entities controlled by Zaveri. Activor subsequently initiated a “no asset” bankruptcy proceeding, omitting more than $900,000 accounts receivable due and owing to Activor.
In order to collect the outstanding attorney fee portion of the judgment, Mehta commenced this action (Mehta II) for compensatory and punitive damages against Activor, Zaveri, Actiogen, and Chanda based on common law and statutory fraudulent transfer theories.
The trial court awarded plaintiff compensatory damages of $207,760.35 and punitive damages of $621,781.05, for a total judgment of $829,041.40, plus interest, attorney fees and costs. There was no court reporter or live witness testimony. Instead, counsel stipulated the evidence would consist of deposition testimony and documents. The court of appeal modified but otherwise affirmed the judgment in the unpublished case of Mehta v Activor Corp.
On appeal defendants did not provide a settled statement or other suitable substitute. The clerk’s transcript was incomplete. Before any appellate briefs were filed, this court issued a briefing order, directing the parties to include in their briefs a discussion of the effect of defendants’ failure to provide most of the relevant papers as part of the record in an appendix. Defendants failed to heed the briefing order.
The court noted that where the appellate record is inadequate to permit us to assess whether the trial court has erred or the judgment is not supported by substantial evidence, it must affirm. A party on appeal has the duty to support the arguments in the briefs by appropriate reference to the record, which includes providing exact page citations. We have no duty to search the record for evidence and may disregard any factual contention not supported by proper citations to the record.
On appeal defendants contend the right to sue for the unpaid attorney fees portion is vested in plaintiff’s law firm, not plaintiff himself. Stated another way, defendants insist plaintiff is no longer a judgment creditor entitled to sue defendants for fraudulent transfers.
The Supreme Court acknowledged more than 80 years ago, a judgment for attorney fees belongs “to the party to the action for fees paid or incurred by him, and not directly to the attorney, who is not a party to the action.- (Los Angeles v. Knapp (1936) 7 Cal.2d 168, 173.).
The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that all defendants entered into a fraudulent scheme.